Anchors Aweigh!



Most people don’t think of anchors when facing (or in the middle of) change. I do; and I spend time with my clients examining their anchors as well.

We all have anchors in our lives. They may be family, friends, career, community, job (or even job title), spiritual or religious beliefs. They might include our personality types, our egos, our education and credentials. For some, they are possessions: homes, furnishings, clothing, jewelry,vehicles, boats, bank accounts. Habits and hobbies are often strong anchors. There are those whose anchors include a cat, or dog, or fish, or snake, or…

Our anchors help give us a sense of stability, of security. They often become a part of our personal identity, of how we see ourselves, and how we claim our own unique place in the world.

All too often, during really big changes, people lose sight of their anchors. You hear, “My world is turned upside down.” “Everything is changing.” “I don’t know what to expect anymore.” Perhaps one, or even a few, of their anchors have been cut loose. But the others are still there, available to provide some stability.

This is the first reason that I ask my clients to spend some time focusing on anchors… It is too easy to feel completely adrift, even when you aren’t.

What are your anchors?

If you know anything about boating, you know that there are many different types of anchors. Fundamentally, they fall into two categories, those that rest on the seabed and “sea anchors.” Let’s look at each of these in the context of change.

The anchors that rest on the sea bed are the ones most of us are familiar with. They come in many different sizes, shapes, and weights, but their purpose is the same…to keep the boat from drifting away. The boat can rise and fall with the tide, turn with the current, rock with the waves. Our anchors help provide some stability during the rise and fall of our day-to-day lives. They allow us to rock with the waves, and turn with the current without drifting away. But, in general once you have anchored your boat, you know where to find it when you return.

There is reason, however, to know whether each of our anchors rests on the seabed. Quite simply, if the turbulence is great enough, if the change is disruptive enough, they may prevent us from navigating it successfully.

I live in Hoboken, NJ. During Hurricane Sandy a few years ago, the city flooded; the primary source of the flooding were the inlets that sit on the northern and southern borders of the city. Several people anchor their sailboats in the northern inlet. I have a photo of a sailboat that broke loose from its anchor during the storm, and ended up on a waterfront walkway. The photo at the start of this blog is a boat that was anchored too tightly to survive the levels to which the waters rose.

What is your relationship to each of your anchors?

If an anchor is keeping you from changing, putting your change success at risk, are you prepared to change your relationship to it, or change the change to accommodate it? 

The second type of anchor is a sea anchor. It might be used because the water is too deep to anchor to the sea bed. Or it may be used when you are at sea to help ride out a storm.


As the illustration shows, during storms a sea anchor is used to keep the bow (or stern) of the boat facing into the heavy seas so that it won’t be rolled by the waves.

The equivalent of a sea anchor is important when going through major change as well. No matter how high the tumult, how strong the winds are blowing, how stormy the seas, we need to keep ourselves facing into the change.

Look at your list of anchors again. Look at your relationships to them, and whether or not those relationships are negotiable. Do any need to be strengthened to keep you from drifting away? Which of your anchors are your sea anchors, keeping you facing into the challenges of change?

Whether you are thinking of making a major change in your life, or are already on that change journey, take the time to sit down and reflect on your anchors.

  1. What are your anchors?
  2. What is your relationship to them? Are you willing and able to change that relationship if needed in order for the change to succeed? If not, are you willing and able to redefine the change in a way that will allow you to both honor the anchor(s) and to succeed with the change?
  3. Which of the anchors are your “sea anchors,” keeping you facing into the change when it gets really rough?

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